Steve Butcher and Nassim Khadem
16 Nov 05
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has failed in what could be the final bid to save the life of condemned Melbourne man Nguyen Tuong Van.
Mr Downer’s face-to-face plea last night to his Singapore counterpart, George Yeo, for Nguyen’s death sentence to be reconsidered was rejected.
Mr Downer was told in a meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in South Korea that Singapore’s decision to refuse Nguyen clemency was “irreversible”.
Nguyen’s last chance for life may now rest with Prime Minister John Howard, who will join the APEC forum later this week. But repeated requests by The Age to establish whether Mr Howard will raise Nguyen’s case with the Singaporeans have failed. Mr Howard’s adviser did not return calls.
Nguyen’s senior Melbourne lawyer, Lex Lasry, QC, last week accused Mr Howard of lacking the heart to tell Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that Australia did not want Nguyen executed, a suggestion Mr Howard rejected.
Mr Downer told reporters after his meeting with Mr Yeo: “Once more I explained to him how concerned we are about his impending execution and repeated my view to him that we hoped the Singapore Government would be prepared to reconsider. He said Mr Yeo spent some time explaining why the decision to refuse clemency had been made and was adamant that the decision could not be changed.
Nguyen, 25, was arrested in December 2002 at Singapore’s Changi Airport carrying 396 grams of heroin. Found guilty of importing heroin, he was sentenced to hang under Singapore’s mandatory death provisions for anyone carrying 15 grams or more of heroin.
Nguyen, who has been on death row since March last year, had clemency refused on October 21.
Mr Downer, who has repeatedly asked Singapore not to hang Nguyen, was uncertain last night about Australia’s next move.
Nguyen’s other lawyer, Julian McMahon, said last night that despite the reported comments “we are vigorously continuing the campaign on a number of fronts”.